Remembering Dave Smith, inventor of MIDI and the Prophet-5 synthesizer Dave Smith, a pioneer of the synthesizer, revolutionized pop music in the 1980s. David Bowie and Madonna are among the legions who used his Prophet 5 synthesizer. Smith died last week at age 72.

Remembering Dave Smith, inventor of MIDI and the Prophet-5 synthesizer

Remembering Dave Smith, inventor of MIDI and the Prophet-5 synthesizer

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Dave Smith, center, photographed attending the 2015 North American Music Merchants convention in Anaheim, Calif. Pete Brown/Wikimedia Commons hide caption

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Pete Brown/Wikimedia Commons

Dave Smith, center, photographed attending the 2015 North American Music Merchants convention in Anaheim, Calif.

Pete Brown/Wikimedia Commons

The sound of pop music in the '80s was shaped by synthesizers – and one of the most impactful people behind that sound was inventor Dave Smith, creator of the Prophet-5 synthesizer and founder of Sequential Circuits, the instrument's small-scale production company. Though his most well-known inventions were decades in the past, Smith, who died last week at the age of 72, is still remembered with reverence.

"He always knew more about what a musician wanted, or needed, than they did," says keyboardist Roger O'Donnell, who has played synths in some bands you might have heard of – The Cure and The Psychedelic Furs among them. But the legacy of the Prophet-5 is at least, if not eclipsed, by that of another Smith invention: the Musical Instrument Digital Interface, or MIDI, which allowed digital instruments to speak the same language for the first time. The technology remains in wide use today – thanks in no small part to it being made totally free.

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